US drone manufacturer General Atomics is to fly one of the updated versions of the Predator drone – dubbed SkyGuardian by the company but named as the ‘Protector’ by the MoD – into the UK next month. The drone will undertake a 20 hour flight from the company’s test centre in North Dakota direct to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, arriving on 11 July to be part of the static display at the Fairford International Air Show later that week (13 – 15 July). It will be the first transatlantic flight for a medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) drone. Read more
Details of discussions between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on plans to allow the RAF’s upgraded version of the US Predator drone to be flown within the UK have been released following a Freedom of Information request by Drone Wars UK. More than 200 pages of internal documents including emails, minutes of meetings, discussion papers and copies of slide presentations have been released. Many of the documents have been redacted, some extremely heavily.
David Cameron announced in October 2015 that the Britain was to purchase the new version of the Predator, which the UK is re-naming as ‘Protector’. The UK’s current type of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, the Reaper, are unable to be flown in the UK due to safety issues and the new version was purchased, in part, to enable the RAF to fly its large armed drones within the UK for training as well as security and civil contingency purposes. Read more
Two of the government’s flagship drone projects – development of the new ‘Protector’ armed drone to replace the Royal Air Force’s current Reaper system, and the Army’s ‘Watchkeeper’ surveillance drone – are facing “significant issues” according to a newly published analysis of government major projects by a spending watchdog.
The latest annual report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), an agency of the Cabinet Office and the Treasury, has highlighted a series of problems and delays currently challenging the two drone programmes. Read more
General Atomic has test flown a new version of its Predator B (Reaper) unmanned aircraft that is the basis for David Cameron’s so-called “Protector” drone.
New 79-foot wings – 13 feet longer than previous – have been added to the Extended Range version of the infamous Predator drone. 40 of the Extended Range (with increased fuel-capacity) have been delivered to the USAF recently for “field testing”. The new design with increased wing lengths will increase flight times of the drone from 27 hours to 40 hours say the company. Read more
In an interview with the Telegraph ahead of the Tory party conference, David Cameron announced that the UK is to again double the UK’s fleet of armed drones, this time up from 10 US Reapers to 20 ‘Protector’ drones. No such drone currently exists and some began to wonder whether Cameron had simply got the name wrong. However later clarification from the MoD seemed to indicate that the ‘Protector’ was to be the British name for the longer range and extended endurance Predator-B drone (commonly known as the Reaper) which is currently going through a development programme in the US in part to gain the necessary certification to fly in European airspace (although this is not confirmed). Read more